2 Who Is the 1 Percent?

We can have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few orwe can have democracy. But we cannot have both.—Louis Brandeis (1856–1941)

The “1 percent” framework is a useful lens for understanding the dramatic changes that have occurred in the last several decades. It is a real demographic we can pinpoint and picture as well as a symbolic reference to those primarily responsible for the polarization of wealth in our Union.

The “1 percent” icon has obvious limitations, too. It suggests we should focus on wealthy individuals when we also should be thinking about the role of the wealthiest corporations, sometimes summarized as “Wall Street.” In chapter 5, we will discuss the Wall Street inequality machine and the interaction between ...

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